May 11, 2023
Describe a form of media in which you see yourself.
There have been some individual artists who have opened doors and windows for my self-reflection. People like Margaret Cho and Mindy Kaling knocked me out with being prominent funny Asian women. Being funny and not reduced to physical appearance was very important to me as I was developing. I had mostly only seen Indian women in Bollywood and Tollywood movies, where they were typically expected to be small, light-skinned, femme, tattoo-less, and demure. Margaret and Mindy threw that out the window in the 1990s and 2000s.
Margaret’s 1990s show “All American Girl” was hilarious and the first time an Asian American family was the focus of a U.S. sitcom. I saw parts of my family in that show; when I see my unique family, I see me. Mindy’s role in “The Office” was absurd and nothing like me, but she was so spit-take funny that I was in awe. On a solo road trip I once listened to her narration of her 2011 book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” I almost slammed my brakes laughing several times.
When I really think about it though, one movie really had a hold on me in high school into college: “Bend in Like Beckham.” Man, I am not British, I am not Punjabi, I don’t play soccer, and at the time I only knew David Beckham as Posh Spice’s husband. But, that movie is so funny and the main character is a dark-skinned tomboy so I was invested. The queer undertones of it I think is what really got me. Gossip that Parminder Nagra’s character was lesbian… I wanted aunties spreading rumors that I was dating Kiera Knightly!
Different media has reflected parts of me throughout my life, but nothing has been fully representative. I’m not sure that is possible and often that is too much pressure for artists and actors. The fact that I have had such a hard time seeing myself in any media is part of why I put my writing in public spaces–for me to see myself through my own words.